Washington State is the worst 10-2 team in the country according to the college football playoff committee, which ranked the Cougars 13th in their final poll, preventing them from playing in one of the most prominent bowl games on New Year’s Day.
Four three-loss teams were ranked directly ahead of them. I’d give you one three-loss team, maybe two three-loss teams, maybe even three, but four? Was Washington State’s two-loss schedule worse than four three-loss teams’ schedules?
I’m not going to compare and contrast WSU’s schedule with Washington, Florida, LSU and Penn State, but you could make a reasonable case that the Cougs could be 13-0 right now. If the proper targeting call had been called late in the fourth quarter of the USC game in September, the Cougars probably would have beaten the Trojans.
If there had been better weather in the Palouse for the Apple Cup, they could have beaten the Huskies. I say this because we all saw it – their Air Raid offense malfunctioned in the slush. It didn’t help their Speed D on the other side of the ball either. Is this an excuse? Yes. Also, when you look at common opponents the two teams played this year, Washington lost to Oregon and Cal, and Washington State beat them both.
I know we’re not going to agree on the Apple Cup, but what about the Pac-12 Championship game? Based on what I saw from Utah and its trash offense, the Cougars likely would have won that game too, thus the possibility of 13-0. And I’m guessing if all of that had happened, a one-loss team like Oklahoma would have snuck into the Final Four ahead of the Cougars, and I would have complained about that too.
As it was, the Pac-12 title game put an appropriately ugly bow on a conference that did not have its best season. Everyone seems to dislike Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott for making too much money, spending too much money and not giving enough money to conference schools. I dislike him less than others, though, because he’s still the man that brought the Pac-12 Network to my basement, and the Pac-12 Network airs Cougar football and basketball games that were never on TV before.
Last Friday night for the longest time, I thought Washington and Utah might go to overtime tied 0-0. I kept picturing someone back East watching the game, someone who always perceives the Pac-12 as a subpar conference, having his feelings confirmed. There are those who would say the game simply featured two solid defenses, and I’d say, you’re right, but it was more than that – there were two terrible offenses on the field too.
The Huskies got the only touchdown of the game on the luckiest pick-six I’ve ever seen. The ball somehow went in and out of the hands of a Utah receiver and off of his foot, ricocheting nicely to Byron Murphy, who returned it 66 yards for a touchdown and a 10-3 lead.
Both teams showed their offensive ineptitude the rest of the way, and Washington somehow earned a trip to the Rose Bowl to face Ohio State. Amazingly, the Buckeyes are only 4 1/2-point favorites over the Huskies, but we’ll see how that plays out in Pasadena – I’m not so sure I’d bet against Chris Petersen with a month to prepare for a big game.
I’m disappointed in the Cougars’ consolation prize, and I never thought I’d say that about a postseason game in San Antonio. The Riverwalk is terrific, the weather will probably be great, but on Dec. 28 when the Alamo Bowl kicks off, I’ll still wonder why the Cougs are playing Iowa State, a 10-2 team against an 8-4 team.
I think Washington State deserves better than that after the season they had. And here’s the worst part – even though the Cougars are 6 1/2-point favorites, I don’t necessarily like our chances to win.
When the guys in Vegas sized up the matchup, I can see why they set the line at 6 1/2, but Iowa State will likely be the more excited team to be there. What will be the Cougs’ mindset? Will they be motivated to play well and prove they should have been in a New Year’s Day bowl? Or will they feel like they got hosed and should be playing somewhere else and somehow have that adversely affect how they perform?
Iowa State figures to hold the upper hand in that intangible, and I’m hoping it turns out to be just a bunch of dime-store psychological mumbo-jumbo on my part, overthinking the whole thing.
But there’s a tangible to account for too. Mike Leach is 1-3 in bowl games at Washington State and lost all three games as a favorite.
I’ve been told to move on, to get over the Apple Cup, to quit being such a whiner and poor loser and to stop it already with the sour grapes, but those rankings with the Cougs at No. 13 didn’t help matters, particularly when your biggest rival is playing where you want to be playing.
What I’ve learned as a Coug is too much about rolling with the punches.